Swan Song // A Story About Overcoming Your Grief, Finding Yourself and Ballet

Author: Charlotte Wilson
Genre: Contemporary | YA
Goodreads rating: 4.31
My rating:  ★★★

 

When iconic ballerina Beatrice Duvall died, a nation mourned – and a legacy was born. Sixteen years later, her daughter Ava comes to London to take part in a high-profile tribute to Beatrice, and to learn about the mother she never knew.

There’s just one snag: the tribute is a ballet, Swan Lake. Which is infinitely painful for Ava, because she can’t dance. Won’t dance. Not since she quit the Royal Ballet School last year and walked away from everything that defined her.

But this is London, colourful and crazy, and with actor Seb at her side, there’s so much to discover. Like Theatreland razzmatazz and rooftop picnics and flamingo parties. And a whole load of truths Ava never knew about her mother – and herself.

When the time comes to take the stage, will Ava step out of the shadow cast by her mother’s pedestal? And who will be waiting for her there, in the bright lights?DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review

While Swan Song didn’t blow me away, I really appreciated that this was first and foremost about Ava and her grief for the mother she had never known. She knows barely anything about her mother, so when she’s in London for her mother’s tribute she also takes that opportunity to go to all the places that meant something to her mother. This was really the most powerful aspect of the book, especially when Ava finally ‘finds’ her mother and connects to her. It’s heartbreaking to read about every time she doesn’t feel anything and very relatable to see Ava avoid her grief.

Because it hurts. Not the way it should. Not because I found an echo of my mother resonating through time; not because I stood on a pavement where she’d once stood and suddenly she was real, there with me, and I could feel her. Because I felt nothing.

While in London Ava stays with her mom’s best friend Thisbe and her son Seb, who have taken her in like she’s one of their own, which was heartwarming to read.Seb is Ava’s love interest and does play a big part in the book, but it never overshadows her own journey of self discovery and finding her mother. They start out as friends and the relationship is built at a regular pace. There is a misunderstanding at some point, but it isn’t dragged out and is resolved realistically.

I do wish Ava’s father had played a bigger role, but plot-wise it made sense why he didn’t and it was realistic. All the other characters Ava meets are all interesting and add something to the plot and/or Ava’s growth. I also liked that there’s no antagonist – in a way Ava is her own antagonist.

I do want to talk about something that could be considered a spoiler:

One of the characters is bipolar, which is revealed in a chapter titled ‘A bit cuckoo?’. That title actually refers to another character talking about themselves, but from the way the previous chapter ended it sounded like this was about the bipolar character. This was just an unfortunate mistake, but I wanted to point it out if like me you’d get really mad at seeing that chapter title, because it has nothing to do with that character.

All in all it was a fun and cute read, sometimes emotional and overal it could be considered a powerful read, but something was missing for me. Maybe it wasn’t emotional enough? I really can’t put my finger on what it is, but it’s definitely worth the read.

Have you read Swan Song? Any books about grief that you’d recommend to me? Let me know in the comments!

Chasing Eveline // A Breath of Fresh Air

Author: Leslie Hauser
Genre: Contemporary | YA
Goodreads rating: 4.35
My rating:  ★★★★★

 

 

 

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Ivy Higgins is the only student at Carmel Heights High School who listens to cassettes. And her binder is the only one decorated with album artwork by 80s band Chasing Eveline. Despite being broken-up since 1989, this rock band out of Ireland means everything to Ivy. They’re a reminder of her mom, who abandoned Ivy and her dad two years ago. Now the music of her mom’s favorite band is the only connection she has left.

Even though Ivy wavers between anger and a yearning to reconnect, she’s one-hundred percent certain she’s not ready to lose her mom forever. But the only surefire way to locate her would be at a Chasing Eveline concert. So with help from her lone friend Matt—an equally abandoned soul and indie music enthusiast—Ivy hatches a plan to reunite the band.

The road to Ireland won’t be easy, though. And not just because there is no road. Along the way they’ll have to win over their Lady Gaga-loving peers, tangle with some frisky meerkats, and oh yeah, somehow find and persuade the four members to play a reunion gig. It’s a near-impossible task, but Ivy has to try. If she can’t let go of the past, she’ll never be able to find joy in the present (Goodreads).DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Chasing Eveline is such a refreshing, cute and realistic contemporary. While going in I did expect more of the book to take place in Ireland, I’m not disappointed at all. The road to get there was fun to read, and it made sense that it took a while. Plus it meant focusing on Ivy’s home life, her pain over her mom leaving them, her relationship with her dad and the friendship between her and her best friend Matt.

Ivy is desperately chasing Chasing Evline*, as it’s the only connection she still has to her mom. She’s slowly forgetting more and more about her, which freaks her out. Chasing Eveline’s music helps her get through her pain, which I found such a beautiful aspect of this book.

One day while I waited, I listened to every Chasing Eveline casette I owned. When the final song ended, I drew the hand clutching my mom’s Walkman to my chest. A faint tingle covered every inch of my skin. My river of misery had turned into a sea of tranquility, and I closed my eyes, desperately wanting to savor the feeling. A lyrical life vest had saved me from another day of drowning pain.

* Ha see what I did there

The writing was absolutely beautiful, especially whenever Ivy was listening to Chasing Eveline and was carried away by their music. It was so easy to feel her pain, yet the book still didn’t feel heavy at all. This was mostly due to her friendship with Matt, which was such a delight to read. At first I was a bit worried that romance might blossom between the two (which wouldn’t have been that bad, since their current relationship was good and healthy) since I absolutely loved their friendship and good friendships between girls and boys are such a rarity in YA. But! Romance never blossoms between the two. Not even a minor crush. Nothing.

Ivy and Matt bond over the fact that they’re both trying to get over someone leaving them and their love for Chasing Eveline. The way they meet is super cute and funny, and I’d love to share it with you but you should just read it for yourself. I marked so many scenes and quotes related to their friendship, because they’re absolutely adorable and just #friendshipgoals. They constantly quote and talk in Chasing Eveline lyrics to each other (dorks) and they constantly support each other. At some point Ivy doesn’t go to school because of a family emergency, and Matt is so worried that he ditches school to find out what is happening, and then just stays with her to support her. Matt is just a part of their family, which really warmed my heart.

Ivy’s relationship with her dad is also beautiful. He’s the only family she has left, so of course she’s very worried about him and constantly takes care of him. I can’t say too much about it since I don’t want to spoil anything, but their relationship is a big part of the book. Also!! When Ivy’s mom left he got her the cuttest dog ever and oh my god I would die for that doggo.

While Ivy’s relationships with Matt and her dad are an important part of the book, the plot itself of course is about trying to reunite Chasing Eveline for one last concert. And that would be in Ireland.  Of course when you’re two regular teens that’s not easy, so lots of shenanigans ensue. While some of those aren’t entirely realistic, they are fun to read about.

I can’t say anything about the ending without giving it away, but I absolutely loved it. It wasn’t what I expected, but it was incredibly realistic. While some of the shenanigans I mentioned earlier weren’t always entirely realistic, the book as a whole did feel realistic. Not just the ending, but the way the romance was handled as well. It didn’t take over as soon as the love interest was introduced, wasn’t forced nor rushed. Chasing Eveline being so realistic is what made it such a breath of air.

I would definitely recommend this one, whether you love contemporaries or not.

Have you read Chasing Eveline? What’s your favourite contemporary? Can you relate to Ivy’s relationship with music? Let me know in the comments!

Masked // Wasted Potential, Abusive Relationships, White Superhero Named G*psy and More

Author: J.D. Wright
Genre: Superheroes | It’s advertised as YA, but this is NOT for a younger YA audience
Series: Superheroes UnderCover #1
Goodreads rating: 3.62
My rating:  ★

 

Vada’s To-Do List:

– Turn 18 (check!)
– Register super name
– Order supersuit
– Attend superhero indoctrination
– Graduate high school
– Start kicking criminal tail

Vada Lawson can’t wait to be a superhero. Born into a family with special powers, she’s been training to fight criminals and villains her whole life. But her indoctrination into the underground super community is derailed when normals start breaking out in superpowers themselves.

Not trained to control their new abilities, the normals are frightened and vulnerable. Then their mutilated corpses begin turning up all over town. What the heck?

Somehow, with the help—and hindrance—of an annoying newly-minted super named Orion, Vada has to stop the chaos before it destroys her and everything she holds dear…and ruins her superhero debut.

No one ever said that being a superhero was easy…DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Because this is going to be a long one

Since I love superheroes, I was really looking forward to this one. The preface only made me more excited, since the author wrote that since there aren’t that many superhero books, ‘especially with female readers in mind’, she decided to write one.

When the story starts it immediately gives us a look at Vada and her superhero family (who I absolutely love by the way), celebrating Vada’s 18th birthday, which is also the day she can officially become a superhero. Soon we meet her best friends Henley and James, the latter also having superpowers but wanting to be an agent, specifically Vada’s, instead. Things were looking up and I was definitely enjoying it, until one of the villains showed up and made a very crude comment that I didn’t see coming at all. While Vada is 18, the tone of the book still felt pretty young to me. Not that young, but not mature/old enough for me to expect language like that. Crude language like that is found multiple times in the book, and there are also graphic sexual scenes (at some point there’s even a straight up sex scene?? Which really weirded me out because minus these sort of scenes it really read like a YA book – which it’s also advertised as)

I’m not saying that the more mature content in general ruined this book for me. Though the way it was written is not my taste at all (too graphic) and I definitely don’t want to read an actual sex scene. I could’ve done without it, but if these scenes didn’t come out of nowhere, fitted the tone of the book and weren’t about an abusive couple maybe it wouldn’t have ruined the book for me this much.

This abusive couple, two villains, were pretty much my biggest problem with this book and kept me from really enjoying this. From the moment these two meet, I felt very uncomfortable.

[Spoiler] couldn’t stop the shiver she felt under [spoiler]’s intense gaze. When he swept his eyes over her, he seemed to almost be… absorbing her. Every hair on her body stood at attention. On one hand, she felt violated by his gaze and wanted to slap him for it. On the other hand, she secretly enjoyed the attention.

This girl is having a hard time at home and is constantly lashing out, trying to see how far she could get with her parents. She also has an unrequited crush on someone who doesn’t even know she exists. What I got from this is that she really wants someone to pay attention to her and love her. The guy she falls for though? Not the right person. He doesn’t have a good influence on her, is predatory, manipulative, possessive, objectifies her and it’s pretty clear that she’s afraid of him:

Whatever the reason, she wouldn’t disobey him. He was gentle with her most of the time, but if she ignored his message, she would surely pay for it later when they were alone.

YIKES. But it gets worse!

[Spoiler] favoured spanking, and she’d ended many nights with rosy red ass cheeks. She wouldn’t give him a reason to use the spankings as a punishment.

Look, I’m not saying the author is condoning or even romanticising their relationship. But it’s also never really pointed out that it’s not a healthy relationship and they’re still together by the end of the book. Of course they’re villains, so maybe the author thinks it’s obvious that this isn’t a good relationship, but look at how many people ship Harley Quinn and the Joker and think that’s #goals. I also considered that maybe this relationshop is a nod to that one, as there are several other DC Comics references, but that doesn’t make the way this relationship is written as okay.

That being said, the girl herself is pretty problematic too. She has the power to make people do what she wants:

”I can make them say things, give me things, do things for me… do things to me…” She licked her lips and thought about the young man from next door and how he had bent to her will just two nights ago.”

Of course, she is a villain, but this is rape??

Besides these two villains, I also had some other problems with this book. Like James slutshaming Henley for the way she was dressed. While the friendship between James and Vada was really refreshing and fun to read, that slutshaming comment (and the fact that his first design for her supersuit was really sexual?? And when she tells him she won’t wear that, he says ‘it was worth a try’??) kept me from enjoying it.

Then there were the other superheroes besides Vada and her family. Honestly I enjoyed this book most when it was written from either Vada or Orion’s POV. Not that that says much. To be honest I think it mostly had to do with my relief of not having to read about the villains. Anyway, the other superheroes! One of them is a white girl who’s described like this:

Majestic took a brief moment to study the girl next to her, who was wearing a layered dress and strappy gladiator-type sandals. The entire ensemble started with a tan ruffled top, then changed to dark purple, lightening as it went down. The bottom layer was gold. Bells hung from her skirts and jewelry dangled on both arms and ears. The final touch, in lieu of a mask, she wore a sheer purple half-veil that somewhat masked the bottom half of her face, from the nose down.

Her name?

*whispers* Merlin

Just kidding. Just got serious Merlin opening vibes. All kidding aside, her name is G*psy

That’s a slur that you shouldn’t use. It pains me every time they use it on The Flash (I know that’s her name in the comics, but use her real name! Give her a different superhero name! I don’t care! Just don’t call her that) and it definitely pains me in this book, especially when it’s a white girl dressed like that who decided to call herself G*psy. Also her superpower is that she’s a psychic because of course.

I have some other problems as well, but I decided to write them down as a list because #yaylists!

💛 Can authors please stop writing about people purring unless they’re part cat or something
💛 SERIOUSLY HOW DO PEOPLE PURR WHAT DOES THAT SOUND LIKE SOMEONE DEMONSTRATE IT FOR ME I’VE BEEN QUESTIONING THIS SINCE SARAH J. MAAS
💛 Vada’s debut as a superhero is constantly called a debut, except this one time when it’s called a coming-out party?? Dude?? No??
💛 Both main superheroes are white, while their agents aren’t. In fact, said agents are the only ones in the book who aren’t white
💛 No YA book can do without your stereotypical mean girl of course *eye roll*
💛 ‘If she never had to hear [her mother] moan over her father’s multiple infidelities again, it would be too soon. She’d chosen to marry the bastard, after all. Whatever she reaped was what she sowed.’ Because let’s blame the victim here!
💛 ‘Turning happened when a super stayed in suit for too long and essentially became the alter identity. They lost touch with who they had been before and usually never found it again. Supers who turned were destined to stay that way forever. It usually happened to villains more than heroes, but it did happen to both. It was what Vada had been afraid had happened to [spoiler].’ Gurl she raped someone pretty much at the beginning of her career as a villain. Also I thought this explanation was a bit… cheap? And stupid? It’s not like you’re a completely different person when you’re in your suit. It’s like how we all act differently in different environments. I’m not the same person with my friends when I’m with my grandfather. I always saw the dual identity of superheroes the same way.
💛 The murders could’ve been an interesting mystery if the story had only been told from Vada and Orion’s POV, and not also from someone who knew what was going on. Bye bye murder mystery

But you know what the worst part of this book is? IT HAD SO MUCH POTENTIAL. It could’ve been such a fun read! Vada’s superhero family is so much fun and I loved their scenes together. The siblings had pillow fights, supported each other, teased each other. The parents were actually involved, cared about their kids, protected them, made sensible decisions and were just good eggs. They had inside jokes!! There was female friendship and if James hadn’t made comments like that their friendship would’ve been great to read about. Also superheroes!! Superheroes are fun. But the graphic sexual scenes, the focus on such an abusive couple and having to read from their pov, the inclusion of a white superhero named G*psy, and just so much more, really kept me from enjoying this book.

What really rubbed me the wrong way is, that the author says she wrote this because there aren’t that many superhero books with girls in mind. This is such a harmful book for girls. If you want superhero books/comics for girls, read Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan), Squirrel Girl or Not Your Sidekick (which I haven’t read yet but I’ve heard good things so I’m positive I can recommend this). I appreciate the thought, but the execution? Not so much.

Have you read Masked? What did you think? Any superhero books that you would recommend to me? (Besides Heroine Complex which I absolutely love and Not Your Sidekick which I need to get my hands on asap). Let me know in the comments! 

Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith | It Actually IS Like Harry Potter

Author: Shaun Hume
Genre: Fantasy | Middle grade
Series: Ewan Pendle #1
Goodreads rating: 4.16
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

Ewan Pendle was weird. Really weird. At least, that’s what everyone told him. Then again, being able to see monsters that no one else could wasn’t exactly normal …

Thinking he has been moved off to live with his eleventh foster family, Ewan is instead told he is a Lenitnes, one of an ancient race of peoples who can alone see the real ‘Creatures’ which inhabit the earth. He is taken in by Enola, the mysterious sword carrying Grand Master of Firedrake Lyceum, a labyrinth of halls and rooms in the middle of London where other children, just like Ewan, go to learn the ways of the Creatures (Goodreads).

DISCLAIMER: I was given a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review

Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith was honestly a joy to read. I’m always a bit skeptical when a book is compared to Harry Potter, but Ewan Pendle definitely had the Harry Potter vibes I loved yet isn’t too similar too Harry Potter.

While there are definitely similarities (Ewan and Harry both being orphans, not growing up in a loving home, finding out they’re actually part of a magical world, going to a school in that world and discovering a bigger mystery that they’re trying to solve), Ewan Pendle is definitely not a blatant Harry Potter rip-off. Ewan’s world and story are definitely original (and fun!)

Being a Lenitnes, Ewan doesn’t just need to know magic, he also needs to know how to handle a sword, martial arts, stealth, and a bunch of other really cool subjects. Though he doesn’t need to excel at everything: after their first year they’re sorted into ‘cliques’ based on what subject they’re best at. I thought this was really cool, because when you’re taught how to battle dangerous magical creatures being able to handle your own without magic and being stealthy are really handy.

My favourite subject to read about was probably Pyro. It reminded me a bit of potions, but the ‘potions’ are inside Pyro Eggs, which I found really cool.

The Legerdemain Concoction (Black). When broken onto stone, will create the illusion of three large and heavyset cloaked figures deserting the area the Egg Shell is broken onto.

The Verglas Concoction (White). When broken onto a wet surface, creates a hard and slippery layer of ice, spreading out to over forty square feet and lasting up to an hour.

There are also Egg Shells that need to be broken into fire or grass, and I’m sure there are many more. I really loved all the worldbuilding in this book, but the Pyro Eggs really stood out to me.

I also really loved the writing style. The descriptions were so vivid I could easily imagine everything. You know how when a book is really good you forget you’re actually reading something, and you’re not actually there? That was me with Ewan Pendle and the White Wraith. The entire book just felt magical and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It took me a while to actually finish this, but that’s definitely not the book’s fault. I wanted to read it whenever I could.

Whispers in the night, the White Wraith will call,
Slicing through the air, they will come for us all,
Turbulent in mind, it claws at your soul,
Spirits taken away, bodies left to fall

I also of course really loved the characters. There were lots of unique characters that all stood out. I do have to admit that sometimes I wasn’t sure which teacher was who, but the important ones were easy to keep track of. But the ones that captured my heart were Ewan and his two best friends: Mathilde and Enid. I loved their little trio, how supportive of each other they were, accepted each other and their flaws, had each other backs and tried to solve the mystery together. Ewan is a little cinnamon roll who had no problem standing up to older tough-looking kids who were bullying Enid (at this point he didn’t know her yet), even though Enid didn’t need the help at all (she’s such a bad-ass I love her. She’s also a pirate!!). Mathilde is just such a joy and such a good friend and together they all balance each other out.

Also! There were multiple characters that aren’t white, including both Mathilde and Enid

This book filled me with a lot of joy and warm and fuzzy feelings. I first rated this four stars, but writing this review made me wonder why I had given it four and not five? So I changed my rating, because I absolutely loved it.

If you loved Harry Potter, I think you’ll definitely enjoy this one

Have you read Ewan White and the White Wraith yet? Do you want to? Any other books that you think are worthy of being compared to Harry Potter (without being a rip-off)? Let me know in the comments!

It’s Not You, It’s Me // Doctor Who Myths and Legends Review

Author: Richard Dinnick
Genre: Sci-fi
Goodreads rating: 3.8
My rating: ⭐

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For thousands of years, epic stories have been passed down from Time Lord to student, generation to generation. The truth of these tales was lost millennia ago, but the myths and legends themselves are timeless.

These are the most enduring of those tales. From the princess Manussa and her giant snake Mara, to the Vardon Horse of Xeriphin, these stories shed light on the universe around us and the beings from other worlds that we meet. Myths hold up a mirror to our past, present and future, explaining our culture, our history, our hopes and fears.

A collection of epic adventures from the Time Lords’ mist-covered past, Myths and Legends is an unforgettable gallery of heroes and villains, gods and monsters (Goodreads).

DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I was really excited to read Doctor Who Myths and Legends. The world of Doctor Who is very broad and there’s so much to explore. Myths and legends set in that world? Yes please. Unfortunately this book was a huge let down for me, mostly because of one reason: the writing style.

The writing style was very simple, flat and there’s a lot of telling instead of showing.

I spoke with Orfak and told him of my concerns. He was deeply shocked but admitted to having the same fugue state when it came to the events of last night following the use of the sarcophagus by the Vardon.

This led to me not feeling immersed in the stories at all, nor caring about what happened. There was a lot of they did this, they did that. There was no excitement

Persis peered through one of the tiny windows. She was staring into the throne room. She recognised it from the holovid. It was empty.

I also felt like the stories were too short and sometimes rushed. Some of them ended very abruptly and made me wonder what even the point of the story was. I would’ve preferred if the author had reduced the amount of stories and had developed the remaining ones better. Though I’d still have trouble with the writing style, I do think that that way I would’ve cared a little bit more about the characters and their stories. Maybe I would’ve given the book a higher rating if that were the case. But now? I didn’t care at all for these characters, even though they definitely had potential to be interesting.

I didn’t expect the Doctor to be in this much, but the introduction did hint at them appearing in the stories, at least now and then. They appeared in only a few stories though, and except for one they barely played a part. It was still fun to see the Doctor show up though! It’s just a shame that they only appeared in some of the stories at the beginning.

I also liked that the first story hinted at River (‘She was an archeologist – feisty and unconvential’) and there’s a story about Lucy, The Master’s Wife in season 3 of New Who which I really liked.

All the other stories unfortuntely felt really flat to me, though they did have potential to be really interesting. Since the writing style was the biggest reason for that, I think this might be a case of it’s not you (the book), it’s me.

A 1-star rating feels really harsh, but I sadly really didn’t enjoy this one, so giving it more than 1 star felt like I was lying (to both myself and others).

Have you read Doctor Who Myths and Legends? What did you think of it? Who are your favourite Doctor and Companion? Let me know in the comments!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone // More Like of Insta-Love and Bore

Author: Laini Taylor
Genre: Fantasy | YA
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1
Goodreads rating: 4.04
My rating: ⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

 

 

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Daughter of Smoke and Bone had been on my tbr for years, and I’m not even sure why. I think because it’s a fantasy and it was really popular at the time, but I didn’t even know what it was about when I went in. I’m really grateful that iBooks offered it for free (for a limited time I think? I don’t know if it’s still up for free) because I’m saving money and I would’ve been bummed if I had wasted money on this. That sounds really harsh, I know, but this is the third book in a row that I read (while I’m writing this) that disappointed me (thankfully one of the other two was free as well) so I’m just glad it only wasted my time and not my money as well.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone started out strong and interesting. As someone who loves art, I always have a soft spot for characters who do as well, and are artists on top of that. So Karou being an artist and going to art school? Yes please. Having a great, supportive, fun friend in Zuzanna? Hell yeah. Then it turns out that the sketches in her sketch book aren’t just figments of her imagination, but real. Karou being raised by a family of ‘monsters’ was really interesting, especially when she goes around the world on errands for the father figure in her life, Brimstone. I also liked the worldbuilding: it was cool to see a fantasy story set in Prague, and the descriptions were vivid and it was easy to picture it all. 

We don’t know much about Karou’s past (nor does she) or the monsters that raised her, which really intrigued me. But then Akiva, an angel and Karou’s love interest, showed up and it already gave me a bad feeling. His POV wasn’t that interesting (throughout the entire book whenever it was his POV I just internally sighed ‘not him again’) and it gave me the feeling the book would soon focus on romance. A lot. 

And it did. Karou and Akiva’s first meeting doesn’t go so well. They’re enemies, so Akiva tries to kill her. Except he doesn’t. Why? I dunno, ’cause neither does he. Some kind of connection?? A ‘pull’?? It’s very vague. I love the enemies to lover trope, but I would’ve prefered if Karou and Akiva got to see each other’s side of the conflict that seperates them, understand that it’s not black and white, start to trust each other, bond, become friends and then fall in love. But deciding not to kill someone because of some kind of ‘pull’?? And then stalking her, watching her sleep? Might I direct you to Twilight, sir, I think you’d feel quite at home there.

Karou too immediately falls in love with him and I just

And why? I don’t know!! Oh wait I do, but it’s a spoiler so spoiler in white:

Because they were lovers in Karou’s past live but even then it was insta-love asjfbhdf And Karou ‘fell in love’ before she had her memories back? 

The book shifted a lot from an interesting fantasy novel with a kick-ass protagonist, a great female friendship, a mystery, the threat of a war, a family of monsters to… a lacklustre romance that felt incredibly forced and just too dramatic for my taste. 

The beginning of this book was interesting and I really thought I’d end up loving this, or at least liking it. It had a lot of potential and it’s the reason why I ended up giving this 2 stars, even though by the end I absolutely loathed it. I was bored and just

This implies that I DNF’ed this book. I did not. Because apparently I’m a masochist

Have you read Daughter of Smoke and Bone? How did you feel about it? What was your latest disappointment? Let me know in the comments!

Snow White and the Seven Angels // A Cute Queer Retelling

Author: Rhys Christopher Ethan
Genre: Fairytale retelling // Short story // LGBTQIAP+ // Suitable for all ages
Series: Queerky Tales #1
Goodreads rating: 3.11
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

White has a secret. One he has shared with his family to no avail. When he meets the Prince of his dreams, he decides he can no longer live a lie, but in order to do so, he will have to face his worst nightmares (Goodreads).

Snow White and the Seven Angels is the first queer retelling in this series, and I really like the idea of Snow White being a trans girl. The Evil Queen (who is Snow’s biological mom, like in one of the original versions of the tale but not the one most of us are familiar with) doesn’t fear that Snow White (at this point in the story called White) is/will become more beautiful than her. While the Queen at some point does (sort of) accept that White wants her Fairy Godmother to turn her into a girl, she keeps referring to her as a him (which is italicised every time to emphasize that while the Queen says things like ‘I don’t want him to be miserable’ that she isn’t being a good parent at all) and as soon as the Mirror tells her that White is going to be more beautiful than her, she changes her mind completely. The Evil Queen in this tale isn’t just a vain woman who wants to be the fairest of them all, she’s a transphobic parent who refuses to let her daughter be who she is.

The romance is very insta-love-y and not that deep, but since the entire story was written like a fairytale, it might have been on purpose. And while the romance is important to the plot, it’s not what’s most important, so it’s okay that it didn’t take up that many pages. I do wish it had been a bit more developed instead of them talking once and the prince then showing up at her castle and being like ‘I love you’. That said it was cute and when White tells the prince she’s not a boy but a girl, the prince says ‘I’m in love with you no matter what’ which I really loved. 

While I get that the story was written in a fairytale style (at least it felt that way to me and I assumed it was on purpose, but maybe this is the author’s writing style?), it was a bit too simple for me. This also means that it’s perfect to read to young children though, who would learn some great messages from this book. It’s clear that The Evil Queen’s views are not okay and it’s never excused. Snow White (the name White takes towards the end of the book when she has a girl’s body) being a girl and the prince loving Snow White no matter her gender are normalised. Not to mention Snow White gets her happy ending.

Definitely an important (and cute!) book, but the writing style made me give it three stars. Though it makes it perfect for a younger audience, it just kept me from really enjoying this one.

Have you read this one, or any others in the series? Or other queer fairytale retellings? If the latter, give me recommendations please! Let me know in the comments

It’s Not Like It’s A Secret… That I Have Very Mixed Feelings About This Book

Genre: YA // Contemporary // LGBTQIAP+
Goodreads rating: 3.69
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated (Goodreads).

Oh boy. Okay, so I have a LOT of mixed feelings when it comes to this book, so I decided to make some lists of things I liked and didn’t like. Because 1) I like lists 2) It will hopefully help me gather my thoughts. So let’s go

What I liked

💛 Sana is Japanese, and so is the author, so in that aspect we get own voices (what I could tell from the author’s note at the end she isn’t a part of the LGBT+ community herself)
💛 Sana’s parents speak Japanese a lot in the book and Jamies mom speaks Spanish (though we don’t see her much) It made the book feel authentic and no worries if you don’t speak one or both of these languages! It’s clear from the context what’s being said
💛 Speaking of Sana’s parents, while her dad isn’t around a lot, it’s clear he loves her. While Sana and her mom don’t always see eye to eye (actually, most of the time), towards the end of the book they have a beautiful heartfelt moment which is one of my favourite scenes.
💛 Sana’s new friends. I do wish they had been developed a bit more and had a bit of their own arc outside of Sana (and besides getting a boyfriend), but their interactions with each other and Sana were really fun to read and it was great to read about Sana finding friends that understood her
💛 It’s a pretty quick read
💛 There’s quite a bit of racism in this book that gets adressed, whether it’s aimed at Sana or comes out of her own mouth (or other characters). While I wish some more time had been spent on Sana’s own racism towards Mexicans, it’s made clear that what she said and thought wasn’t okay and it wasn’t resolved that easily
💛 Sana gets the assignment to keep a poetry diary, and the poems she collects and analyses are a part of the novel. Before she got the assignment, she already loved poetry and bonded with Jamie over this. They start to exchange (romantic) poems which is really cute
💛 While I have mixed feelings about the obstacle between the two girls, the way Sana asks for another chance is really romantic and super cute. I’m a sucker for stuff like that.

What I disliked

💛 At some point some boys are clearly interested in Jaimie’s ex-girlfriend, and Sana wants to yell at them to give it up, because she’s a lesbian. Um. Sana. Is she sapphic? Yes. Does that mean she’s a lesbian? No. Bisexuality does exist. There were a few other times that I felt like there was some bi-erasure, but I don’t know if I was overreacting? At some point Sana says to a boy that she would like him if she were straight, and at first I screamed ‘BI-ERASURE’ in my head, because why not say ‘if I were into boys’? She knows bisexuality exists, because at some point she does wonder if she may be bi (though briefly). But I don’t know if I’m overreacting here? It definitely stung though and  put a bad taste in my mouth
💛 Insta-love. Honestly, I have NO IDEA why Sana and Jamie are into each other, besides probably attraction? Oh and they share a love of poetry. Of course this book doesn’t solely focus on romance (it focuses on family, friendship and racism to name a few as well), but since the romance is a big part of the book, the fact that we don’t really see the relationship build up, or actually see much of them as a couple, it just doesn’t work. Were they cute? Sure. Did I ship them? Not really. I honestly couldn’t care less what happened. Of course there’s an obstacle at some point (which I’ll get to later) but I wasn’t invested in their romance at all. I was told they’re in love, but I wasn’t really shown it, let alone why they fell in love. So when things got rough? I didn’t care at all. Besides I knew there was a 99 percent chance things would work out anyway. Also at some point Sana was like ‘it’s only October’ and I went ‘HOLY IT’S ONLY OCTOBER?!’. It’s been a little over a month. A few weeks. WHY
💛 So. The obstacle. Sana did something stupid. And I really wish that what she did (spoiler: she cheated. She thought Sana was cheating on her and thus kissed a boy that liked her, even though she didn’t like him) wasn’t the obstacle in their relationship. On one hand I feel like she was forgiven way too easily, but on the other hand I also understand why she did it. She let her insecurities get to her, then she panicked and only made it worse by not telling the truth to the parties involved and just made it worse. She’s only human, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
💛 Like I said before, I wish Sana’s friends had been developed more and had gotten an arc of the own. Same could be said about the other supporting characters. They were flat and I didn’t really care for them. Since they weren’t well-developed and I barely knew anything about them, they didn’t really stand out from each other. 

That definitely helped me get my thoughts about this book a bit clearer. There are things I liked (or even loved) about it, but when romance is a big part of a book, and I’m not feeling the romance, it’s hard to enjoy the book to it’s fullest. While the other problems I had with it didn’t help either, I think the fact that the romance wasn’t developed is the biggest reason why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped.

Have you read It’s Not Like It’s A Secret? What did you think of it? Any similar books that you think I would enjoy more? Let me know in the comments!

Heroine Complex // Asian Female Superheroes Kicking Ass

Author: Sarah Kuhn
Genre: Adult // Urban fantasy // SUPERHEROES
Series: Heroine Complex #1
Goodreads rating: 3.69
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder.

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco’s most beloved superheroine. She’s great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss’s epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants.

Unfortunately, she’s not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea.

But everything changes when Evie’s forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it’s up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda’s increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right… or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.

Heroine Complex is as far as I know very unknown and very, very underrated. I hadn’t heard of it and was very lucky to see it at the bookstore. The bright colours obviously captured my eyes, then I read ‘Heroine’ and then I noticed that the two girls on the cover looked East-Asian?? Then I read the summary and the name was Japanese?? So Asian female superheroes, how could I not take this home with me? (also I had two book vouchers and had worked a lot that week so I could afford it)

I’m happy to say that it didn’t disappoint. I was a bit wary when I realised it was an adult book, as I’m usually not very fond of those because well, I’m not fond of sex scenes. There is some sex in this book, but I easily skipped the scene when I realised it was going into details and other than that it was all just mentioned or talked about, nothing too bad.

But let’s start from the beginning. While this is a superhero story and there’s also a romance, what I really liked is that the relationship between Evie and Aveda is at the core of the story. Evie and Aveda have been best friends since they were little and Aveda always had Evie’s back. The memories of what Aveda has done for Evie throughout the years are heartwarming to read and also helps you understand why Evie goes through such lenghts for Aveda, though it also makes you wonder if their relationship isn’t a little bit toxic. Other characters point this out as well, but what’s great is that at some point Evie stands up for herself, points it out to Aveda, and Aveda listens, apologises, and their friendship only becomes stronger for it. There’s an adorable scene where they go out, where it feels like they’re just two best friends instead of boss and employee and two superheroes with the fate of San Francisco at the weight of their shoulders. It really made me fall in love with their friendship and I can’t wait to see more of these two in the sequel. 

Both women went through some amazing growth: Evie becoming more sure of herself, coming to terms with her powers, being able to stand up for herself, and Aveda realising she’s been way too caught up in her reputation and that she hadn’t been treating her best friend very well.

While Aveda obviously had her flaws, I couldn’t help but love her. I definitely didn’t approve of the way she manipulated Evie, the moment I read Evie’s memories of Aveda standing up to their racist classmates and eating all the food Evie’s parents made, or jumping up the stage and grabbing the mic from the band because Evie wanted to hear a particular song at a school dance, I just couldn’t help but fall in love with her. She’s incredibly hardworking and knows what she wants, but she still has her insecurities and just wants to be approved and loved.

The romance between Evie and her love interest (while it’s pretty obvious who it is I don’t want to give it away in case you don’t want to know going in) is really good. I didn’t expect to fall in love with them as much as I did, but boy did I. It builds up throughout the novel, they get to know each other better, communicate, support each other, tease each other and it’s just?? So pure?? They also admit their mistakes to each other and apologise.

Besides Aveda and her love interest, Evie also has a great friendship with Aveda’s body guard Luisa  (who is a lesbian!) and her other childhood friend Scott, and is also struggling with her relationship with her teenage sister. Speaking of her sister, towards the end of the book she made a decision that I felt was kinda… random? I thought it was a bit much, but maybe she just didn’t think it through. I loved that she was really smart and finding her place among the group, and even though she and Evie didn’t always see eye to eye, they definitely loved each other.

While I absolutely loved the fun, comic book vibes the book had going on, I did wish that the villain didn‘t feel cartoonish. I couldn’t really take them seriously, which meant the stakes didn’t feel that high to me, which wasn’t the case at all! San Francisco and it’s citizens were at stake after all, and thus the main characters as well, but it was just hard for me to really take it seriously.

Another thing that I had a bit of a problem with, was the lack of character descriptions. Evie and Aveda were described (and on the cover) but either I missed it, or I have no idea what the other characters looked like. I went back several times to see if I missed it, so I could’ve overlooked it, but I think they just weren’t described, which was really annoying because I didn’t know how to imagine the characters besides Evie and Aveda. It’s a small thing though and didn’t ruin the book at all for me.

I definitely fell in love with this book. It had a bit of a slow beginning, but once I got into it I couldn’t stop reading. If you haven’t yet, I urge you to pick this book up.

Have you read Heroine Complex yet? What did you think of it? Who’s your favourite superhero? Let me know in the comments!

The Upside of The Upside of Unrequited

No that title is not a typo, I didn’t accidentally write The Upside of twice – no it’s me trying to be witty and making a pun *finger guns*

Author: Becky Albertali
Genre: YA | contemporary
Goodreads rating: 4.08
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right? (Goodreads)

Becky Albertali has done it again. How does she manage to write such cute, fluffy, fun books, that are also important? I mean, I’m trying to do it myself with my current WIP, so I definitely look up to her.

Seriously though, The Upside of Unrequited is such a joy to read. My favourite thing about it is probably how diverse it is. Molly and her twin Cassie have two moms, of which one is black. They also have a little brother who’s also black (their white mom is their biological mom, while their black mom is their little brother’s biological mom), the family is Jewish, so is one of the love interests, Cassie is queer and of course so is her girlfriend Mina (to be specific she is pan), who is also Korean-American, Molly of course is fat and she also has anxiety (something I didn’t know going in) and there is so much diversity in the background too. Like one of Molly’s ex-crushes makes an appearance and he has a boyfriend. Also it basically starts on the day same-sex marriage is legalised which I absolutely loved.

Since I have anxiety myself, I was really thrilled to find out Molly has it too. Like I said in my Queens of Geek review anxiety is different for everyone, so of course there are differences between me and Molly, but I definitely related to her. Guys I’m so happy how many books are coming out lately with a protagonist who has anxiety (and they’re not necessarily about anxiety) – this is definitely a trend I don’t want to end (can we celebrate the end of abusive male love interests though)

Speaking of the end of abusive male love interests – I’ve noticed that this trend is dying out, especially because we’re getting such great male love interests lately. Of course they’ve always been there, but abusive male love interests are really popular in fiction (not just talking about books, tv and movies too) so I’m really happy to see less and less of them in books. Reid is such a cutie and he and Molly have great chemistry. I really hope this is the start of a new trend (as Jamie in Queens of Geek was a sweetheart too) and that abusive male love interests will be a rarity soon.

Another thing I loved was the focus on family. Molly and Cassie are very close, but throughout the novel they face some problems and Molly fears they’re growing apart. This was just as important to the plot as the love story and I feel like this is something a lot of people can relate to, though maybe with friends instead of family members.

The characters were all so much fun to read about. I loved all the little, quiet moments Molly had with her moms, where she confided in them and they were just there for her. My favourite moment is when one of them tells her that her getting a boyfriend at seventeen isn’t ‘late’, as Molly thinks and that it’s completely okay to not date in high school at all. I found this super important, since there’s a lot of focus on romance in fiction and media geared towards teens and a lot of them (me included, though I’m no longer a teen and I no longer feel that way) feel like there’s something wrong with them if they don’t date during this time. 

I also loved that Molly is basically a Pinterest Queen™ and loves crafting. I feel like there aren’t many YA protagonists with that hobby? Or at least that I’ve read about so it was a joy to read.

Basically: lots of diversity, focus on family, healthy relationship(s) (while there’s mostly a focus on Molly and Reid, the relationship between Cassie and Mina and Molly and Cassie’s moms are healthy too), positive messages, cute and fun oh and a big gay wedding

Have you read The Upside of Unrequited yet? What did you think? Any more books with great male love interests that you’d recommend? Let me know in the comments!